"Serbia is currently the most competitive filming location in Europe," says Spanish-born producer Antoni Sole. "Crews are skilled and experienced, with an excellent knowledge of English and are much cheaper than those in Bulgaria or Romania. The facilities are also of high quality."
Sole is an experienced producer who has set up an office of his production company ABS Producciones in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. He now divides his time between Serbia and Barcelona, where ABS is based in Spain. He has co-produced Serbia's first zombie film, Zone Of The Dead, and is developing three further projects in the territory.
The English-language Zone Of The Dead is co-directed by young Belgraders Milan Konjevic and Milan Todorovic and is based on a script by Todorovic and Vukota Brajovic. The cast is a mix of up-and-coming local and European actors and was co-produced by Serbian outfits Talking Wolf, PFI Films and Viktorija Film with Italy's Trees Pictures. Shot in Serbia and now in post-production in Italy, it will be released in Serbia by leading local distributor Tuck on six prints from February 6.
For his next project, Sole reversed the process. Alessandro Perella's horror film The Bald Madonna, starring Robert Englund and Ivana Mino, was shot in Italy and is now in post-production in Serbia. The film is another co-production with Talking Wolf.
"Since my first films, Peter Greenaway's The Tulse Luper Suitcase trilogy, I only do co-productions," Sole explains. "Cinema is a collective thing and it is the only way to recoup because you want your films to travel. That is also the reason that Zone Of The Dead was shot in English."
Sole will reteam with Konjevic and Todorovic on the horror film Night Prey. He then plans to move behind the camera, making his directorial debut on the apocalyptic thriller Pandora, again starring Englund (better known as A Nightmare On Elm Street's Freddy Krueger) which he plans to shoot in June in Argentina, Spain and Serbia. It will be set up as a co-production with Canada's Caramel Films and Argentina's Cinemagroup.
"I work a lot in Argentina and Mexico as they are the best shooting locations outside Europe," Sole explains. "The question of cheap locations actually comes down to the quality versus price. Probably Mongolia would be the cheapest place in the world to shoot, but where is the infrastructure, what are the crews like' (In) Serbia, I know I can always make a quality production without too many expenses.
"Serbia has a very bad image in the world. But if people see a good film and find out it was shot there, I'm sure they'd be interested in coming. That's why productions like mine or the upcoming Ralph Fiennes project (Coriolanus, to be shot in Serbia in March) can help not only the Serbian film industry, but the country itself."